By his death..he gave us life
Looking at the facticity of one’s own life, the person can have different approaches towards it. The concept of being-thrown-into-the-world introduced by Martin Heiddeger was widely followed by subsequent existentialists. The “thrown” aspect points to the reality of life when one is placed into a situation against his will, against his knowledge, and against his permission. Man has to live in the existential conditions against his choices. It surely does build a bitter feeling in one’s mind and one reaches to conclude that he/she is abandoned and pushed away from his own home. The person is literally thrown into an unknown situation; a situation quite painful where I strive to live and complete my term.
We move from there to a wider perspective: “Given“. Now, the understanding shifts from someone who is pushed out to someone who is gifted. When it is given, it could be a gift, a reward, or a grace. When one understands his existential conditions in this line, he feels blessed in that. Now its no longer that I am pushed away from my home. Rather I am given this; its my own home and am worth recieving it. Question may arise whether it is just a manipulation of mind that makes the difference just to comfort. Partly yes… but not absolutely. Authentic living would surely demand a change in one’s perspectives.
Again, when it is given there arises a gratitude towards it. It is our response towards what is in front of us. And gratitude always finds good in that. Our existence becomes a field where goodness is cultivated through the nourishment of gratitude.
And then, when one has gratitude towards everything and sees goodness in every moment and realities of life, one cannot refuse to love. Love paves its way as the moving factor of all our actions. It is love that binds man to man, to other beings and ultimately to the divine. When justice and truth dominates in the self, fights and complaints increase. When love guides them, one takes a decision higher dimension. This is what is evident in the crucifixion of Christ. An acceptance of unjust suffering; suffering till death.
To conclude, we have an existential situation. This situation is given to us. We are grateful towards it and hence we see goodness in everything that passby. And then our lives are exalted to the realm of love through which we find a meaning to our lives.
Human beings often try to associate themselves with certain attributes that they wish the others to apprehend as something relating to their identity. Such a phenomenon asserts their very inclination to be part of a crowd. But at the same time, we find few individuals rising above the scale; the scale of being ‘one among the many’. Such an individual becomes a point to where the spotlight falls and the crowd gaze. Over ages man has the quest to find out a path that leads him to a better living; a life that gives meaning to him; a meaning to others as well.
The past few centuries gave birth to some of the great thinkers who were dissatisfied by the philosophy that limited man into the sphere of being. The eyes of the scholastics were much focused on the essence of human being that they forgot to answer who an individual is. Existentialism arose as an answer to this problem. It tried to highlight human being as a concrete individual living in the time and space here and now. In the due course, they also tried to answer on how to lead a life meaningful; in another sense, how to live authentically.
The problem with facticity
We must have encountered youth who boast ‘I decide my life’ and people who claim ‘I chose my life’. But a deeper analysis of these propositions leads us to realize that we never chose the conditions that we are now in. From a broader perspective, I can start questioning my position in deciding the place and time of my birth, the parents I have, the childhood atmosphere I grew and so on. A microscopic view into one’s action would convey the message that all the actions and even the thought do not come on its own. Rather, they are being influenced by various external conditions which they weren’t even aware of.
Much of our lives do not focus on the essential questions of our own existence. The crowd attitude of people has led them to be irresponsible spectators of their own existential conditions. People come and go as mere audience in a show claiming no responsibility for the construction of an identity. The traditional philosophy too demanded an objective search of truth, investigating the nature and essence of the universal and abstract. Soren Kierkegaard, the man widely recognized as the father of existentialism made an observation on this and calls an end to this concept of objectivity. He brings to the stage the immediate need of subjective thinking that emphasizes on the inner reflection of our own self and our actions in this world.
The concept of ‘being thrown’ is much vivid in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger who speaks of the historicity of man as an inevitable aspect of existence. Man is cast into this world and its existential conditions that constitutes his facticity without his choice and permission. Fallenness is a fall into the collectivism in which the individual tears his will to the depersonalized mass and follows the crowd. The same idea follows by Jean Paul Sartre who introduces the phrase ‘condemned to be free’ in denoting the human existence.
Now, after realizing the phenomenon of being thrown in this world, there are two ways a person can opt- either he chooses to hold on to his historicity and continue being an inauthentic man (Dasman in the words of Heidegger i.e.; a member of society) or he focusses on his future that highlights his existentiality and decides to live an authentic life. Though said easily it isn’t an easy track; rather it involves dread- the fear of the unknown.
In the view of Heidegger, it is anxiety that makes it capable of leading men to self-understanding. The basic mood of anxiety is one of not belonging at home anywhere and with anyone. Thus anxiety brings uncanniness or in Heidegger’s words, “un-zuhause” (not-belonging-at-home-ness).through anxiety, we attain to a clarity in our own character as human essence. “In becoming free, the possibility of anxiety announcing itself as such increases but also, its tendency to release the panicky fallback into inauthenticity decreases.” But since the real anxiety is a rare phenomenon, the possibility of authentic being is hidden from man’s view. He opined that detachment from, ‘everydayness’ and concerns of ‘run-of-the-mill’ philosophy is an immediate need of everyone. “Inauthentic Dasein accepts tradition unthinkingly and fills the possibilities shaped by it; authentic Dasein probes tradition and thereby opens ups new and weightier possibilities.”
Sartre was much worried about the concept of the ‘Other’ who is a threat to our own existence. It is much evident when he says “hell is my neighbor”. “We are already thrown in the world in the face of the other; our upsurge is a free limitation of this freedom and nothing can change this original situation. Whatever our acts maybe, in fact , we must accomplish them in a world where there are already others and where I am de trop in relation to others.”
“The authentic individual, then, in pure reflection accepts and wills her creativity. She consents to the fact that her “task” and “destiny” (in Sartre’s terms) is to freely reveal “Being” by giving it structure and meaning as a world… delights in losing himself as a being( i.e.; in ceasing his attempts to be a substantial self-identical thing) in order to find himself as free consciousness by which Being is saved from meaninglessness.”
A deeper analysis through the various thoughts leads us to infer that an authentic person necessarily possess the following qualities:
- Master of his freedom.
- Ethical being holding on to the morality of conscience.
- Stands for truth and enjoys its beauty.
- Understands love to the truest sense.
- Ready to sacrifice for better cause even unto death.
- Preserves the interpersonal relation and dialogue of a person.
Now along with this, the necessary topic of today’s quest is the search for meaning. Is life meaningful in itself? While, some may disagree that life is meaningful saying “life is absurd” (Albert Camus) and “man is a useless passion” (Sartre), our Christian teachings hold on the virtue of hope which always calls for the search of meaning even in bad tides. Every existence has a meaning that we decipher by our own efforts and speculations. Those who hold on to the pessimistic attitude of meaninglessness must turn their eyes to the survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps. It is told that most of them who survived were those who hoped and believed in the meaning of life.
The authentic person in Christ
Any person comes to the world without one’s choice and there is a challenge of becoming in the person. One is forced to face dread as a result of taking up projects for building authenticity. But a peculiar aspect is noticed in Jesus Christ. “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6).
God, the Son and Redeemer chose a world of anxiety and pain and stepped down from the luxuries and comforts of heaven. For Christ, the existential conditions of his incarnation, human life on earth and subsequent death on cross were chosen willingly by him. Through fulfilling this great project- which God, the Father willed and proclaimed as a promise over ages to the people- Jesus Christ, represents the most authentic personality. As a man he did justice to all the characteristic features of an authentic personality. But it was the crucifixion and death that illuminated his self as ‘being-delivered-for-others’. It is a phenomenon that can be called ‘emptying of self’ for the perfect love. Through this, he exalted the cross as a bridge between the human and the divine.
Recently, a discussion on various philosophical topics brought a new insight in me. The topic moved gradually on the age old cosmological debate of geocentrism and heliocentrism. What is the center of universe? The postmodern notion of existentialism would be ‘man’ and in particular ‘I’. Here, the person constituting the “I” claims to be the center and the whole universe, involving the microcosm and macrocosm, would be surrounding me. The various existentialists had their effort in bringing this reality of raising the concrete individual human being to the status of authenticity. Not considering the theistic and atheistic views, we can speculate that the concept of selfhood from crowd (Kierkegaard), achievement of superman status (Nietzsche), realization of being as Dasein (Heidegger), attainment of authenticity and the concept of alienation (Sartre) are some of the allusions of man’s basic striving.
In living an authentic life one finds a meaning to his existence and it further contends him. This meaning is not an attainment from the achievements rather it is a dynamic effort. “In long run, one would find what gives meaning to one’s life is not material possessions or anything we claim to own that gives meaning to life but what we do with what is given.” It is never too late for anything. The greatest possibility of death calls on for the challenge to live and live to the fullest so that one attains the meaning of his existence.
Often we take up daring decisions that may turn to be a life changer event. Daring decisions have quite peculiar aspects. When one knows the consequences of his plans, he can construct strategies that shall take him through. And as most of us, we would proudly acclaim it to be our self created devices and plans. Be careful about this. All such decisions are planned because they have been already subjected to such situations and you are just following a path that had been treaded by many predecessors of yours. Dread is a black hole experience. You have no idea what you are into. Strategies aren’t pre-planned. It is the fear of the unknown. The fear where the object is absent. The subject exists in a fear in the absence of an object. No where to hold on. No one to curse. A state of free fall… A state of no gravity. This is where man starts his journey to authenticity. This is where he formulates his own ideas perfectly. He becomes a creator of his own judgements; his own strategies; his own plans. Black hole experiences are necessary for us to build the meaning and essence of life. Its again the dimension of faith. Its where one leaps… Leaps into darkness.
We all need light.
Light that destroys the darkness
Of ignorance and arrogance
Yes, we all need light.
O light lead us…